Should the Appin Massacre be covered at the Australian War memorial?

OUR deadliest single moment of war was the Appin Massacre of 1816 — but you won't find any mention of it at the Australian War Memorial.

And the vexed question of whether you should, or shouldn't, stirred debate last week.

Paul Daley, a military writer and a columnist for theguardian.com pointed out that $32 million is being spent to upgrade the AWM displays but there are no plans to commemorate the tens of thousands of indigenous Australians who died in the frontier war during colonial times.

He cited the Appin Massacre as a prime example — noting that Governor Macquarie had told soldiers to apprehend hostile local Aborigines as "prisoners of war".

In noting the AWM gallery, Soldiers of the Queen: Australia's Colonial Military Heritage, Mr Daley wrote: "I can see Australian colonial troops in the frontier wars of others: against the Maori and the Boer, against Chinese militants and against the indigenes of Sudan.

"But I cannot learn of the battles between colonial police, soldiers, settlers and Aboriginal warriors on the Australian pastoral frontier."

The Ngambri - traditional owners of the land on which Canberra sits - have also criticised the AWM.

A memorial spokeswoman said the AWM Act means "the story of frontier wars is not for us to tell".

Mr Daley said he couldn't think of a better place to portray colonial-age Australians at war than in the Australian War Memorial.

But Macarthur's federal Liberal MP Russell Matheson said the Australian Museum in Canberra is the best place to cover frontier wars.

"The conflict between Aboriginal people and our early settlers are a very important part of Australian history and Macarthur's history," Mr Matheson told the Advertiser.

"It was a devastating conflict and I believe the Australian Museum is the best place to be entrusted to tell this story. The AWM includes many stories of Aboriginal men and women deployed to serve overseas [in later wars]."

Campbelltown RSL sub-branch president Dutchy Holland agreed, saying it was important to record and reflect on the frontier wars, but the AWM was meant to focus on Australians serving overseas.

Werriwa MP Laurie Ferguson (Labor) had sympathy with any widening of knowledge of the Aboriginal struggle, but said it would be difficult to change things given the Liberal Party's hostility to a so-called "black armband history".

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